Throughout life we are told about doors, and I don’t mean the cool ‘70s rock band. “When one door closes, another opens,” they say. Or “make sure you choose the right door to walk through”. Or “close the door to that experience”. The phrase that I haven’t heard before, but that I have been experiencing over the last few two months is “when some important doors open, many doors also also slam shut. In your face.”
I have taken on a pretty stoical outlook, to put it mildly, and it’s not really in my nature to be like that. I’ve always considered stoicism to be a rather sad and tedious coping mechanism based on suffering deeply while being too proud to reveal it, and instead pretending – to yourself and / or others that you are cool, collected, brave and well, just fine! Weird. My reason for taking on this alien stoical manner of being is that I felt from the very start of my door-slamming odyssey that I was receiving some kind of coded message from the universe (the type only Benedict Cumberbatch would be able to solve). I knew that I needed to remain patient and see where it was taking me and why it was there.
I won’t go into the ugly details, but the form that this door-slamming took was in a series of rejections, rebuttals, apathy, lack of compassion, meanness and cool disinterest from various parties in various sorts of situations – be it individuals to whom I relied on for friendship, those I reached out to for help, support or guidance, agreements that I had made that were not honoured by the other party, and hurtful or finicky criticism that seemed to come out of nowhere. Basically, the constant and horribly surprising message I kept getting from the universe was something like “Tough shit, girl! Life is tough, you better believe it!” So I chose to soldier on and try to take it in my stride.
After around a month of being unusually stoical, which as I said is a completely new thing for me as usually I immediately face, express and release my emotions, the series of horrid little pokes and bites and shards of broken glass in my feet began to cut me down. I started to feel empty, drained, and well, flat. I even wrote a poem about it.
A flat poem
that’s how I’m feeling.
You could doodle on me in the gaudiest colours
or step on me when you pass by.
Make an airplane out of me and hurtle me across the room,
or blow your nose with me when you cry.
Flat, like I have just one dimension,
flat, like I can never again grow or rise,
flat, even when I try to set bold intentions
so flat I can’t even react to my drab demise.
I’ve felt depressed or anxious many times in my life, but I have not often felt flat. Flatness is like being a zombie, without the technicolour ’80s clothes and harrowing groaning action; just a half-dead yet curiously alive person who manages to get through every day as normal but when the day ends, and especially when a new day begins, feels like it’s Groundhog Day and that life is not really being lived. But it keeps going nonetheless, with a big, empty, silent part inside, that happens to be thick and spongy like a pillow that’s suffocating the heart moment by moment.
As the disabling flatness spread, a little voice inside of me finally cried out to my resolutely stoic brain. It whimpered “WTF?!” My stoic brain heard it and said “Shhh, you are fine. You have a loving family, you have your health, you have work you love, you are alive and have choices.” It said that in a monotone, not like it didn’t really believe what it was saying, because it has no personality to speak of to be as complex as that, but like it was automatically the “right” thing to say. But that little voice coming from my heart that was being stifled came from a part of me that was not feeling particularly strong or brave, because those are characteristics you can only have when you have faith, yet it was still able to be a little curious and aware. And that very part with the meagre victim voice started to grow desperately sad, and that sadness started to wear an armour of anger. I became an angry person who felt like having the occasional weeping fit but couldn’t even do that because I was too flat. I started to lose my enthusiasm, vision, passion, interest in doing, even thinking or feeling anything beyond flatness. I wanted to dive into bed and do nothing but read existentialist literature and fantasize about being paralytically drunk in a Paris cafe with Jean Paul Satre, to tell him I finally understood, but I felt so flat I didn’t even really want to do that.
The WTF? was like a root however, and somewhere inside me a plant with answers began to grow, like a unfolding mathematical formula. So the universe is showing me that life is hard, but why now? Especially, as I had recently reached a climax in my life – learning new healing techniques that bolstered my existing understanding and connection with healing, meeting fascinating individuals, having gifts come to me from out of nowhere, shifting into a completely new sense of self, one that I knew was what I had been moving towards for years that had finally come to fruition. Why all the pain of flat-out rejection and heartlessness? I wondered – was I sabotaging myself via my subconscious – ie. ‘you think you can be happy darling? Ha ha! Now you’ll see how wrong you are, because you don’t deserve that!’ No. I was not, I knew for sure. This was definitely an “outside” job. So what was it all for? Why the damage?
And then it clicked. Exactly because I have shifted into a strong sense of self as a person and as a healer, I have to now work on taking on the full responsibility to heal myself. Not look for the healing, the help, the joy, the confirmation, the answers outside of myself.
For so many years I have gathered so many healing tools, but what’s the point of having them if I don’t put them to good use, starting with myself?! For decades of attending workshops and seminars and yoga classes I have (ok, somewhat judgementally) observed some individuals who are just junkies riding on the things they learn – they go from one workshop to the other and never really heal or shift on a deeper level, they just skilfully surf a wave, and often those very individuals also love to roll off a whole list of what they have learned how to do.
But in truth, you could have attended just one of those workshops and have just one tool and have discovered incredible and multifaceted ways to use it for the benefit of yourself and others. Just like consumers today pack their homes with objects they have bought to make their life better, easier and more exciting (and enviable) that they hardly ever use, the same goes for healing.
So unless I can be my own doctor, teacher, healer, guru, lover and friend, I cannot be happy. I cannot have that spark, that oomph, that success of living life with meaning, purpose and reward that my being has been yearning for. Life and all those in it are not oblivious to my needs, they can feed, enhance and colour it in a million ways, and so can I, but if I get stuck on the pain of not receiving what I need and want in the way I have envisioned, I’m lost, I am no longer living, I become flat. And all I will be able to keep seeing is the doors that are being slammed in my face, rather than the ones that are open, and perhaps always have been, but I’d never seen them because I stood fretting in a dark, dank corridor, and they were just round the corner.
And yes, the world and life and all those in it are also harsh and cold and self-centred and ignorant, and so am I. That is nature, we are Yin and Yang, we are sometimes cruel to be kind or thoughtless to others because we are so focused on other things. And existence requires some hard choices, the constant conscious practice of loving, discipline, clarity, intelligence, intuitive cunning, patience, compassion and a resilient sense of humour. Every day is a mission with innumerable twists and turns that in moments require serious consideration, decision-making and positive action – if I am exhausted every day I have to go to sleep early, if I feel drained I have to cut out bad habits like that soothing glass of wine at night and focus more on good ones like making a special tonic to drink, going for a walk in the forest, taking an aromatic bath with a hefty dose of Epsom salts.
Above all – is the ability to let go of the pain that comes from facing the hard truths of life – whether it be the knowledge that billions are suffering in so many horrifying and unfair ways every day or that the person whose heart has suddenly turned to stone and consequently broken yours, perhaps always had heart made of stone and although I suspected as much I didn’t want to acknowledge it.
And finally, prayer. When I first awaken in the morning if I can stop myself from jumping out of bed and leaping into digital / get-things-done day-mode I will lie there breathing, feeling my heart as I clasp my hands together and pray for all I love and feel such gratitude for. In that prayer I will also indulge in asking for the things I truly hope for with all my being. And for a moment, maybe a few hours, days even if I’m lucky, I might savour the relief that I am no longer feeling so flat, because life is for the living and it’s up to no one but me to honour that.